MEDICAL MISSION IN ARMENIA

Medical Missions
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead

AAHPO’s Medical Mission was launched in July 2011 when a group of 20 physicians, dentists and nurses visited clinics in rural Armenia while they attended the Armenian Medical Congress in Yerevan. The next Medical Mission of 2014 focused on recognizing and treating thyroid disease.

Consecutively since 2015 (and only interrupted by the worldwide pandemic of 2020), the AAHPO Medical Mission has worked with Fund for Armenian Relief (FAR) and/or Children of Armenia Fund (COAF) to facilitate its medical missions. Using their vast infrastructure and connections to local polyclinics and hospitals has allowed our AAHPO Medical Mission Volunteers the ability to gain access to rural areas where people sadly still have no or limited access to medical, dental, or eye care.

Since 2015 the Medical Mission outreach has volunteered in several villages in different Marzes (provinces), including Yerevan, Armavir, Alaverdi (Lori), Panik (Shirak), Berd (Tavush),and Artzakh. The AAHPO Medical Missions are extremely rewarding as they allow our AAHPO volunteers to work directly with healthcare practitioners in Armenia, transferring knowledge and connecting on a personal level, creating friendships which last for years. Our volunteers pay their own way and often take their own supplies or donations, taking time off from their practices but it is truly a life-changing experience.

Volunteering and giving back gives us a sense of purpose, reminds us of our blessings and good fortune living in the United States. Travelling and volunteering highlights the modern advances and conveniences that we have available in our healthcare system, but also reminds us of how important it is to continue to share our knowledge and to help improve the system in Armenia, especially in rural villages. One example of the disparities of the systems is the Continuing Medical Education (CME). While in the United States Continuing Medical Education (CME) is a yearly requirement for physicians, dentists, and most healthcare professionals, in Armenia, CME is not a requirement and does not really exist. So once one graduates from medical or dental schools there are no programs for continuing education. The Medical Mission pairs up the AAHPO healthcare professionals with local doctors, dentists and we work together in a mentoring type capacity so that the young medical/dental students or recent graduates are paired with experienced professionals from the US. It is so rewarding to work with these young bright medical and dental professionals and to see their excitement as they grasp new knowledge about the procedures through assisting our AAHPO volunteers in the rural setting. The number of people one can help physically through a medical mission is limited (although an amazing experience none the less), whereas through mentoring and working one on one with young Armenian physicians and dentists we have the possibility of helping more people as these professionals go on into their communities and use the knowledge gained.